Meliora (Latin for “the pursuit of something better”) is the third full-length album by Swedish heavy metal band Ghost. The album was produced by Klas Åhlund and released on August 21, 2015. The album was generally well received, placing on several music publications’ lists of the best heavy metal albums of the year and winning Best Hard Rock/Metal Album at the 2015 Grammis Awards. Lead single “Cirice” won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. In September 2016, the band released a special edition of the album, called Meliora Redux.
Ghost began crafting their third studio album, the follow-up to 2013’s Infestissumam, at the end of 2014. The impetus for its “futuristic” theme came to a Nameless Ghoul a month or so prior to starting the Infestissumam tour. While trying out a new guitar rig during a rehearsal, the Ghoul created a “spacey echoed” effect that made a guitar riff sound “futuristic [and] sci-fi”. At this point, he had the idea for their next album.
A Nameless Ghoul said that, because guitar took a backseat on Infestissumam, the band focused on guitar riffs from the beginning of the new album. He explained that part of this was achieved by having four different guitars, each played through three different amps, making four performances going through 12 amplifiers. They used two Gibson SGs, one from the early 1980s and the other from the 1960s; a 1962 Gibson Les Paul; and a Fender Telecaster.
Discussing the selection of Klas Åhlund as producer, the Ghoul said that despite his reputation for working with pop singers and having never produced a heavy metal band before, Åhlund had many of the same musical interests as Ghost. A band member also said, “I definitely think that we got a lot of ideas and a lot of new angles that we wouldn’t have had, had we worked with a more established rock producer”.
A member of the band said that the pre-production, writing and arranging of Meliora took a long time, not allowing for the luxury of recording any non-album songs with the exception of “Zenith”, which was left off the main album but added as an extra track to a limited edition.
Following their debut album Opus Eponymous, which is about the coming of the Antichrist, and Infestissumam, which is about the presence of the Antichrist, Meliora’s main theme is “the absence of god”. A Nameless Ghoul said, “The lyrics deal with the void that happens when there is no god, when there is no one there to help you. But even then, there will always be some fucker there to give you guidance. And the band is basically portrayed as the religious party that comes in there with a guiding hand. We offer the one place in the world that is spiritual”. A member of the band also said that it was “more about the modern man and woman in their pursuit of purpose in life. It’s hard to live in a society if you’re not willing to buy that you are in a collective, yet usually in the Western world, there is a big disregard for individual responsibility”. The album’s title, Meliora (Latin for “the pursuit of something better”), matches the theme of the lyrical content and “the backdrop that we wanted to paint in front of which we’re playing these songs, basically, which was supposed to be, or is supposed to be, a super-urban, metropolitan, pre-apocalyptic, dystopic futuristic thing”.
Although Ghost used choirs on their previous album, they had a lot of issues doing so. This time, the band decided to go the extra mile and spend the necessary money. A Nameless Ghoul said, “There are a lot of mellotron choirs on there because we wanted it to feel [a] little bit synthetic and simulated. The choir symbolizes the gothic element that comes in all of a sudden”.
Opening track “Spirit” utilized the “futuristic [and] sci-fi” guitar riff that gave a Nameless Ghoul the idea for the Meliora album.
A Nameless Ghoul called “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” a “truly stomping riff-based song, Led Zeppelin-style” and “something that would sound great coming out of a car stereo in an American high school parking lot”.
“Cirice” was originally conceived together with “Devil Church“, which was its opening, as a very dark and doomy nine-minute instrumental without a chorus. After working on it further at the urging of Åhlund, a chorus materialized and the two parts were split.
The song “He Is” was written in 2007. The band tried recording it for Infestissumam, but after attempting to get it to “sound like Ghost” and adding and subtracting aspects, ultimately put it on the shelf. Upon starting pre-production for Meliora, they added “He Is” to the list, and after praise from Åhlund, recorded it as it was. A Nameless Ghoul told Loudwire that the lyrics to the song were influenced by the suicide of Selim Lemouchi, guitarist of The Devil’s Blood, who was friends with members of Ghost.
Discussing “Majesty“, a Ghoul said, “Lyrically, it’s on one hand a hymn about the dark lord of the underworld. On the other hand it paints a picture of a swarm of people, whom in a world of complete disaster, idolizes an authority that is clearly looking down upon them. How to love something that hates you back.”